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August 2014

Power Button - Episode 144: Feeling Twitchy About Acquisitions

Power ButtonNow that Amazon has bought the video game streaming service Twitch, people around the video game community have wondered what the acquisition means for the future of the service.  Will there be new restrictions?  New features?  Major changes that will impact how players broadcast their gameplay?  On this episode of Power Button, Blake Grundman and I discuss our thoughts on the buyout and spin that into a conversation about past major mergers and acquisitions in the gaming world.  History is not on Twitch's side when you think back on the sad fates of companies that we've lost due to business dealings.  Let's take a walk through history and explore how all that's come before may well happen again. Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, find us on Stitcher, subscribe via iTunes, toss this RSS feed into your podcast aggregation software of choice, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons and @GrundyTheMan, or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.

Old And New Saints Row IV Content Coming Next Year

Gatoutannounce1280Last year we all enjoyed Saints Row IV for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and PC.  Not long after that, a series of downloadable expansions were released for the game, and after that came the inevitable complete edition.  Normally that's where the story would end, but developer Volition isn't going to miss out on some sweet next generation action.  At PAX today, the company announced that it's bringing Saints Row IV and its DLC to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One along with the previously release DLC under the title Saints Row IV: Re-elected.  As if that's not enough, there's a new semi-sequel on the way to last generation and current generation consoles plus PC in which the Saints gang goes to Hell.  Here's Game Informer with more information:

Publisher Deep Silver has revealed that an expansion pack for Saints Row IV is on the way. Called Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell, it stars fan favorites Johnny Gat and Kinzie Kensington as they team up to rescue the Saints' boss from the clutches of Satan.

After a Ouija board game gone wrong, the leader of the Saints is kidnapped and taken to hell in order to marry the devil's daughter, Jezebel. Johnny and Kinzie descend into hell to save their boss – with the help of some familiar faces, like Saints Row 2's Dane Vogel. Players can freely swap control between either Johnny or Kinzie, or team up together in online co-op. 

Hell will use your save data from the prime Saints Row IV game to put your own unique boss player character into the cutscenes, so if you played the base game on, say, a PS3 and plan to play the new release on a PS4, you'll miss out on that sweet continuity.  Since I never bothered to get the other DLC, I may just double dip on the entire experience for PS4 to replay the base game and then experience the DLC and Hell fresh.  I'm very attached to my boss character; Saints Row just isn't the same without her.  While I'm sure there's criticism about Volition revamping their last generation title for current hardware as so many developers are doing these days, at least there's new material involved.  Both Re-elected and Gat Out of Hell will be available in January as standalone products or a bundle.  Prepare yourself with this trailer.

Nintendo Announces New 3DS Model

New Nintendo 3DS

It's been three years since Nintendo launched its Nintendo 3DS handheld gaming system, so I suppose we're due for an improved model.  Nintendo loves to tinker with its hardware over time, after all.  People have speculated that it's time for a new 3DS model and now the prophecy has been fulfilled as the company has announced via a Japanese edition of Nintendo Direct what it's calling the New Nintendo 3DS which sports a secondary analog stick, additional buttons, and various other improvements.  The New Nintendo 3DS (and New 3DS XL) will be released in Japan are due out in October for ¥16,000 ($154) and ¥18,800 ($181) respectively, but will not be available internationally until 2015.

Continue reading "Nintendo Announces New 3DS Model" »

How Did Nintendo Handle The Great Dragon Warrior Giveaway?

Dragon WarriorFor those of us who were there, it's the stuff of legends: once upon a time, Nintendo Power gave away a free copy of Dragon Warrior for the Nintendo Entertainment System to all of its subscribers.  It was part of a move to introduce North America to the role playing game genre which, at the time, was new and frightening to those who had yet to encounter it.  Nintendo ended up giving away millions of copies of the game via a mail order campaign, and while it's often discussed how players fell in love with the genre thanks to this promotion, we don't often hear about how Nintendo handled the logistics of giving away game paks to so many people.  How'd they make it happen?  Frank Cifaldi and Steve Lin, via Tumblr and Twitter, give us a look behind the curtain.  First, Cifaldi shows us the flyer and redemption card that hyped the deal:

This is from a time when America didn’t really know what an RPG was. As the story goes, Nintendo of America president Minoru Arakawa saw how successful the genre was in Japan, so he started licensing the titles to republish in America.

How did it go? Well, Nintendo of America gave away thousands of copies of Dragon Warrior for free through this promotion, and didn’t bother licensing the sequels. They also only ever published the first Final Fantasy, and cancelled plans to release Earth Bound.

Following that, Lin shows us a scan from an old in-house Nintendo newsletter that explains the hardship behind receiving 70,000 cards per hour over nineteen hour days.  Apparently, dealing with the influx was a dizzying job.

Like so many others, I eagerly sent away for my free copy of Dragon Warrior.  I enjoyed the genre, but didn't care for the medieval setting and trappings.  I've never been much of a fantasy fan.  It's a shame that Earth Bound for the NES never made it to the USA; I'd have been all over that one.  Still, my thanks to everyone who worked so hard and made themselves so sick just so I could get a free game more than two decades ago.

Mega Man X3 Composer Performs Blizzard Buffalo's Theme

If you're a fan of the music of the original Castlevania for the Nintendo Entertainment System or the arrangements from Mega Man: The Wily Wars for the Sega Genesis, then you're familiar with the work of composer Kinuyo Yamashita.  While most of her gaming work hasn't left Japan, you can still enjoy this YouTube video of her performing a piano arrangement of her theme from Blizzard Buffalo's stage as heard in Capcom's Mega Man X3 for the Super NES.  It's a rare treat to see game music composers actually perform their work.  I wish more of them would make these kinds of videos available.

Legend Of Zelda DLC Coming To Mario Kart 8

Mario Kart 8

UPDATE: Nintendo of America has announced pricing for North America: $7.99 each or an $11.99 bundle.

Why stop with Super Smash Bros. for your Nintendo crossover needs?  A page on Nintendo's UK website details the upcoming downloadable expansions for the Wii U's Mario Kart 8 in which new tracks and characters will be offered for purchase.  What's really interesting here is that content from The Legend of Zelda and Animal Crossing are included in the mix in addition to nods to franchises like F-Zero.  Here are the details:

Each Add On Content pack will contain two new cups, each with four courses, which, in total, increases the number of available courses by 50 percent. The Add On Content packs include classics like Wario’s Gold Mine from Mario Kart Wii, as well as new courses, some taking place in the worlds of The Legend of Zelda and Animal Crossing. New vehicles will also arrive with each pack, including the Blue Falcon kart representing the F-Zero franchise in the first AOC pack.

Mario Kart 8 Pack 1 - Released: November 2014

Pack 1 includes:

  • 3 Characters: Tanooki Mario, Cat Peach, Link
  • 4 Vehicles
  • 8 Courses

Mario Kart 8 Pack 2 - Released: May 2015

Pack 2 includes:

  • 3 Characters: Villager, Isabelle, Dry Bowser
  • 4 Vehicles
  • 8 Courses

As a bonus for purchasing both packs - as a bundle or separately - you can get eight different-coloured Yoshis and eight different-coloured Shy Guys that can be used right away.

Exciting, yes?  I know I'm interested, although I think offering more variations on Mario and Peach is a little lazy.  Adding Link and the Blue Falcon makes up for it though, as do the new courses.  Here's hoping one of the new tracks is a run through Hyrule.  These DLC packs are an example of Nintendo in Wii U panic mode; they're giving the people what they want for a fair price (listed as £7 each which is $11.60 at today's exchange rates).  It's hard to imagine a confident, cocky Nintendo offering this much value. Spacing the packs out helps keep interest in the game alive, too. I know everyone was worried about how Nintendo would behave when it finally got into the DLC business, but I think this is a good sign that they'll be fair when it comes to balancing content with value.

Mega Man X Sequels Coming To PSN

Just this morning I was wondering to myself why Capcom hadn't worked out the details to bring Mega Man X4 from the original Sony PlayStation era to the PlayStation Store for play on the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita, and by amazing coincidence the company has announced today that it's bringing Mega Man X4 and Mega Man X5 to PSN in the weeks ahead in North America; X4 releases next week with X5 arriving the week after that.  Fantastic news!  I actually bought an old X4 disc some time ago along with Mega Man 8, but haven't quite made the time yet to replay either.  Maybe once I can load X4 on my Vita, I'll be able to find the time.  Being able to enjoy a few levels before going to sleep from the comfort of bed really changes how often a game is played.

Power Button - Episode 143: Underrated Gaming Mascots Take The Stage

Power ButtonFor every Super Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Master Chief out there in the land of gaming mascots, there are plenty of underrated, also-ran heroes.  These are the characters that set out to become major media franchises and, for whatever reason, didn't quite make it.  The age of the mascot platformer is over, but these characters are never forgotten.  On this episode of Power Button, we pay tribute to favorite mascot characters such as Aero the Acro-Bat, Bubsy the Bobcat, Plok, the Battletoads, Bonk, Jazz Jackrabbit, Commander Keen, Earthworm Jim, and many more.  Will we ever see them again?  We certainly hope so. Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, find us on Stitcher, subscribe via iTunes, toss this RSS feed into your podcast aggregation software of choice, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons and @GrundyTheMan, or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.

These Gaming Items Are Not For You

Donkey Kong Country slidesOnce again it's time to gaze upon the forbidden fruit of the video gaming world.  Platypus Comix has put together another list of rare and unusual gaming items for your perusal.  Marvel at rare prototypes, uncommon demo kiosks, lit signage, autographed cartridges, The Joy of Sex: The Game, and so much more.  Check out the press kit for 1994's Donkey Kong Country which comes to us from an age before thumb drives or FTPs of character artwork and screenshots.  It has actual slides!  They don't make 'em like this anymore because it would be too expensive and rather pointless.  There's so much strange and unusual out there in the community.  We can't have these things, but I really wish we could.  Then again, I suppose it's the unusual factor that makes this stuff so alluring.


Ubisoft Scaling Back On Wii U Releases

UbisoftUbisoft has supported Nintendo's troubled Wii U since launch with a variety of titles for multiple audiences.  Family/casual titles like Just Dance have been balanced with M-rated fare such as ZombiU and Assassin's Creed.  Unfortunately for fans of M-rated games, those titles do not sell on the Wii U compared to other consoles, so as Game Informer reports in an interview with Ubisoft's CEO Yves Guillemot, the company is scaling back on its Wii U plans and getting out of the M-rated game business on Wii U.

“It’s very simple,” Guillemot says. “What we see is that Nintendo customers don’t buy Assassin’s Creed. Last year, we sold in very small numbers.” In fact, across Ubisoft’s portfolio, Nintendo Wii U sales only represent three percent of the total for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2014. That’s down a percentage point from the previous year. Wii sales were still strong in the last fiscal year, making up 11 percent of total software sold, with major strength from the Just Dance franchise.

The company isn’t abandoning Nintendo entirely. Rather, it is simply shifting its focus on the platform. “What we see is that they are very interested in Just Dance, very interested by other kinds of games," Guillemot says. “So what we are trying to do is to focus more on the types of games they are interested in.”

Watch Dogs is the exception to this new rule. Ubisoft has promised the title for Wii U, and as of now, that version is still in the works. “[Watch Dogs] is coming to Wii U,” he assures. “It will be the only mature game we publish on it.”

It's a shame to see Ubisoft cut bait on the console, but it's hardly a surprise.  Its ports of Assassin's Creed can't compare to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One counterparts; why would I buy a lesser version of a game if given the choice?  Ubisoft can't expect Watch Dogs to turn the tide and, honestly, I'm not quite sure why they're still releasing it later this year.  The Wii U is a great console, but if you want to be a well-rounded gamer then it should not be your only console.  Better versions of games like Assassin's Creed and Watch Dogs are available elsewhere.

That said, it surprises me that the company isn't giving the PS3/X360 exclusive Assassin's Creed Rogue a chance on Wii U where it could have been the better version.  I'm interested in Assassin's Creed as a franchise and am planning on playing the PS4 version of Assassin's Creed Unity, but with Rogue remaining on last generation hardware and my PS3 going unused these days, I'm less likely to play Rogue compared to if it were available on the Wii U which I do actively use.  Watch Dogs is essentially over since the other versions have months of lead time over the upcoming Wii U release.  Put Rogue out there on the same day as the other versions, see what it can do, and use that as a measuring stick as to whether or not the Wii U audience wants those kinds of titles.  My PS3 is essentially retired, but my Wii U is open for business.